Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga

Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga
by William W. Fitzhugh

The story of the Viking expansion west across the North Atlantic between AD. 800 and 1000, the settlement of Iceland and Greenland, and the exploration of northeastern North America, is a chapter of history that deserves to be more widely known. Norse discoveries in the North Atlantic are the first step in the process whereby human populations became connected into a single global system. The Norse, and their Viking ancestors, are little known, misunderstood, and almost invisible on the American landscape. Although Norse voyages were known since the early 1800’s, the near absence of physical evidence of Vikings in the New World has rendered the information, and the possibility that Norse explorers reached the North American mainland five hundred years before Columbus, speculative, at best. Yet, discovery of a Viking site in Newfoundland in 1960 confirmed a pre-Columbian European presence in the Americas, and Norse artifacts found in archaeological sites scattered throughout the eastern Canadian arctic and sub-arctic, raise the issue of how far south of Newfoundland the Norse did explore, and what impact their contacts had on Native Americans.

Rating on Amazon: 4.5 stars (17 reviews)

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Vikings Season 2: Anatomy of a Battle Scene

Season Premiere, Thursday Feb. 27 at 10/9c on the History Channel

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Cracking the Viking Rune Code

Mysterious Viking Rune Code Cracked?
By Ida Kvittingen

Why did Vikings sometimes use codes when they wrote in runes? Were the messages secret, or did they have other reasons for encrypting their runic texts? Researchers still don’t know for sure.

But Runologist K. Jonas Nordby thinks he has made progress toward an answer. He has managed to crack a code called jötunvillur, which has baffled linguists and historians for years.

His discovery can help researchers understand the purpose behind the mystery codes.

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Bone found at English abbey could be King Alfred the Great

From Fox News:

British archeologists are hoping they have discovered partial remains of the ninth-century’s King Alfred the Great at a medieval abbey in southwest England.

Preliminary tests suggest that a pelvic bone found in a museum box is either Alfred, or his son, Kind Edward the Elder. The bone was among remains excavated some 15 years ago at an abbey in Winchester, England, but they were never tested. Instead they were stored in a box at Winchester Museum until archeologists recently came across them.

“The bone is likely to be one of them, I wouldn’t like to say which one,” Kate Tucker, a researcher in human osteology from the University of Winchester told Reuters. Researchers say that, given the historical record, bones that old could only have come from Alfred or his family.

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Medieval history term of the week: Mainmorte

Mainmorte

Mortmain. The lord’s right to a share of his men’s personal estate after death. (Duby, Georges. Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West, 555)

*term retrieved from Netserf Medieval Glossary 

From the Statute of Quia Emptores, 1290, on the buying and selling of land

And if he shall have sold to anyone any part of those his lands or tenements, the infeudated person shall hold that (part) directly of the lord in chief, and shall straightway be charged with as much service as pertains or ought to pertain to that lord for that parcel, according to the quantity of the land or tenement sold; and so in this case there shall fall away from the lord in chief that part of the service which is to be performed by the hand of the infeudator, from the time when the infeudated person ought to be attendant and answerable to that same lord in chief, according to the quantity of the land or tenement sold, for that parcel of service thus due. And it must be known that by the said sales or purchases of lands or tenements, or any part of them, those lands or tenements in part or in whole, may not come into mortmain, by art or by wile, contrary to the statute recently issued on this point.

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The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

History of the Medieval World - Susan Wise BauerThe History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade
By Susan Wise Bauer

Hardcover: 746 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 22, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0393059758

Book Description:

A masterful narrative of the Middle Ages, when religion became a weapon for kings all over the world.

From the schism between Rome and Constantinople to the rise of the T’ang Dynasty, from the birth of Muhammad to the crowning of Charlemagne, this erudite book tells the fascinating, often violent story of kings, generals, and the peoples they ruled.

In her earlier work, The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer wrote of the rise of kingship based on might. But in the years between the fourth and the twelfth centuries, rulers had to find new justification for their power, and they turned to divine truth or grace to justify political and military action. Right thus replaces might as the engine of empire.

Not just Christianity and Islam but the religions of the Persians and the Germans, and even Buddhism, are pressed into the service of the state. This phenomenon—stretching from the Americas all the way to Japan—changes religion, but it also changes the state.

Avg customer review on Amazon: 4.5 stars (49 reviews)

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Druids unhappy with revamping of Stonehenge

From Liberty Voice, article by Kimberly Ruble:

Modern day Druids are extremely unhappy with a $44 million revamping that is underway at Stonehenge.

Numerous dozen Druid members that were dressed in flowing robes were protesting at the site on Wednesday. They were demanding for a reburial of Neolithic remains which have been put on display in a presentation about the prehistoric mysterious circle of stones.

A Druid by the name of King Arthur Pendragon, who is leader of a Druid group known as the Loyal Arthurian Warband, equated the display of the skeleton bones to some sort of Victorian peep show.

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Anglo-Saxon coffin uncovered in Lincoln Castle

From Culture24:

Experts say a shoe-wearing skeleton, found as part of an excavation on a church beneath Lincoln Castle dating back at least 1,000 years, should reveal much about the Saxon city ahead of radiocarbon dating on its hidden coffin

The bones of a holy figure, still wearing shoes and initially wrapped in a finely-woven textile, have been found buried within a wall beneath Lincoln Castle in a discovery pointing to the remains of a church dating to “at least” 1,000 years ago, according to experts.

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Berkhamsted Castle

A brief history:

Berkhamsted Castle is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, England. The castle was built during the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century to control a key route between London and the Midlands. Robert of Mortain, William the Conqueror’s half brother, was probably responsible for the construction and became the subsequent owner of the fortification. A motte and bailey design, the castle was surrounded by extensive protective earthworks and a deer park for hunting. The future town of Berkhamsted grew up alongside it. Subsequent kings granted the castle to their chancellors and it was substantially extended in the mid-12th century, probably by Thomas Becket.

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Additional reading:

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Archaeologists further knowledge of Palace in Sherwood Forest

From Heritage Daily:

Archaeologists have helped to prove the size and thus the importance of a Palace that formed the royal heart of Sherwood Forest in the medieval period, by discovering and excavating the previously unknown boundary ditch of the site.

The ruins of King John’s Palace in Kings Clipstone are a local landmark famous for their association with ‘Bad King John’, the enemy of Robin Hood.

In fact during the medieval period the site was known as the King’s Houses and was an extensive royal palace with an adjacent deer park, located at the heart of Sherwood Forest. The palace was favoured by the crown and visited by all eight monarchs from Henry II to Richard II from the second half of the 12th century until the end of the 14th century.

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